Johnson & Johnson, AbbVie, Teva and Endo score industry's first opioid trial win

A California judge ruled in favor of drugmakers in an opioid case brought by three counties and the City of Oakland. (William_Potter/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

As U.S. opioid litigation has evolved in recent years, drugmakers have watched the backlog of lawsuits grow as they've consistently failed to pick up any trial wins. This week in California, four companies finally scored a victory.

A California judge ruled in favor of Johnson & Johnson, AbbVie, Teva and Endo in a high-profile case brought by Orange County, Los Angeles County, Santa Clara County and the City of Oakland. In a 42-page  decision, Orange County Superior Court Judge Peter Wilson wrote that the plaintiffs "failed to prove an actionable public nuisance."

The decision is "tentative," meaning the jurisdictions could still challenge the finding before it becomes final.

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The ruling comes after the local governments sued the drug companies for allegedly downplaying opioid risks to boost sales. The plaintiffs had pursued a whopping $50 billion in the lawsuit.

The companies denied any wrongdoing, saying they simply marketed FDA-approved opioids and that the jurisdictions lacked proof that their sales strategies contributed to the epidemic of opioid addiction.

The decision marks the first trial win for the opioid drugmakers out of thousands of lawsuits filed by states and municipalities. In 2019, Oklahoma took J&J to court and won a $465 million verdict. J&J is challenging the decision.

RELATED: Oklahoma judge chops $107M from Johnson & Johnson's opioid verdict

Meanwhile, settlement talks continue in the complex web of opioid litigation around the country.

Johnson & Johnson and three distributors are working to finalize a proposed $26 billion settlement, while Teva is still engaged in its own deal talks. Teva CEO Kåre Schultz recently said he's "optimistic" the company can reach a deal with plaintiffs within a year.

Purdue Pharma recently dissolved as part of that company's multibillion-dollar bankruptcy settlement.